As Torlan answered Mister Lagraa’s challenge to go head-to-head with Owlbear in a bare-knuckles contest, he began to sing a song of battle as he prepared to defend his reputation, and that of Clan Kolladron. The perpetually angry first mate loudly questioned if Torlan was going to fight or sing. Ignoring Lagraa in yet another act of defiance, Daina got the crowd worked up in support of her uncle while Trucco placed his bets and implored the Cloud Reavers to let the old dwarf have one last performance, as Owlbear would surely destroy him!
The fight began. Unusually short for a dwarf, what Torlan lacked in stature, he made up for with sheer force of will. He launched himself at his rather large opponent, catching Owlbear in a mighty bear hug and pinning his arms to his sides. Repositioning himself for a headbutt, he lost his grip on the big man’s arms. Owlbear’s meaty fist smashed Torlan off of him, knocking the dwarf out cold.
As Daina rushed toTorlan’s side, trying to rouse him and panicked by how quickly he’d gone down, Mister Lagraa laughed and demanded to know if anyone would take Torlan’s place. She sneered pointedly at Daina — perhaps she would step up?
Daina looked down at her old godfather who lay unconscious in her arms, as Lagraa’s challenge rang in her ears. Her expression hardened, and she knew what she had to do. She had to defend Torlan’s reputation, and she also knew that she could not appear weak in front of Mister Lagraa. Gently laying Torlan down on the deck as Sandara Quinn pushed her way forward to attend to him, the former Deneith mercenary got to her feet. Turning around, she didn’t spare Mister Lagraa a second glance as she silently cocked her fists and stepped in front of Owlbear.
It was not an easy fight for either of them. As Daina’s new friend Conchobar shouted words of encouragement from the sidelines (“You’ve got stones, lass!”), she and Owlbear got down to business. Trading several powerful blows, they soon both found themselves bloodied and tiring. As Daina’s punch caught Owlbear square on the jaw, the big man’s enthusiasm for the fight quickly turned to fear as he tried to turn and leave. Mister Lagraa wasn’t having any of it. Forcing Owlbear back into the circle, she handed him a large club and shouted at him to finish the job. He obliged, laying into his opponent. Noticing that Daina was favouring her ribs on one side and seeing her at a new disadvantage, Trucco called out that she could do it! He believed in her! And he had a lot of money riding on this fight, so she’d better not lose! Pausing in her tracks for a split second to give Trucco an incredulous look for his finishing remark, Daina wiped the blood from her mouth and gave Trucco what he’d asked for. Now well aware that Owlbear – whom she’d never laid eyes on before this evening – didn’t want to hurt her any more than she wanted to hurt him, she also quickly realized that there would be no way to resolve things peacefully, and that the most merciful thing she could do was end the fight as quickly as possible. Taking a step back, Daina carried all her momentum and weight into a sharp uppercut.
Owlbear collapsed to the deck, knocked out cold. The fight was over. Rus, having been the only one between himself, Daina, Torlan, and Trucco to have met Owlbear prior to that evening, had watched the fight in silence, taking no sides and letting his expression give nothing away.
Wiping more blood from her face, angry and exhausted, Daina remained silent as she staggered back to where Torlan was being attended to by Sandara. Sitting down hard on the deck, she bowed her head and laid a hand on Torlan’s shoulder, breathing heavily. The old dwarf had regained consciousness under Sandara’s care, and he looked up at her, confused. He rumbled that he must have worn out Owlbear for her, but he was proud of her all the same. Daina’s expression softened as she gave Torlan a sad smile. She reminded him that he’d always finished the fights she couldn’t, and it was time to return the favour.
Daina and Torlan’s victory was short-lived. Sauntering up, the prize purse of a hundred galifars in hand, Mister Lagraa announced that — as the original challenger — Torlan’s loss to Owlbear meant that he owed her a hundred galifars, and that since he and Daina were friends, she’d be keeping the purse for herself. She turned on her heel and left without giving the battered merc a chance to reply, as the sky opened up and it began to rain. As Trucco sauntered over to congratulate Daina on her victory, he tossed over a small share of his winnings, which she let fall to the deck as her arms remained wrapped around Torlan. She quietly thanked the rogue, but lamented that she wished things had been different — it hadn’t been an honourable fight. Surprised, Torlan commented that Owlbear had seemed like a formidable opponent, and Daina explained that he’d been forced to keep fighting past his willingness to do so. She regretted hurting him, but hadn’t seen any other good choice beyond finishing the fight as quickly and mercifully as she could. Torlan raised an eyebrow at that. Had he really been knocked out by the first blow? Impossible!
Meanwhile, a few feet away, Rus decided that it was time to get involved. Dragging Owlbear over to where Sandara had patched up Torlan, he calmly noted that the big man had fought well and deserved the same help as anyone else. He drew a bucket of fresh sea water and brought it to her, and she obliged. As the healing waters of Arawai flowed over him, Owlbear opened his eyes and his expression turned to one of a frightened, abused man as he scooted back across the deck to put some distance between himself and Rus. He asked what had happened. Rus replied that he’d been in a fight with a mercenary, and that it had been quite a tussle, but Ms. Quinn had healed him up and he’d be right as rain. Confused but feeling a little more safe, Owlbear reached out to pat Rus on the shoulder and declared that he was nice, just like the pigs down in the hold.
Waking early as usual to a cloudy, overcast sky, Daina found Fishguts three sheets to the wind and continued to wonder how he managed to get so drunk before she even woke up. He ordered her to hunt some turtles for the day’s stew, and took umbrage at her suggestion that he’d need her to cook them too. Up on the main deck, Master Scourge mocked Torlan for his loss to Owlbear and ordered him to help with the day’s repairs. Rus was sent to pump out the bilges after the previous night’s storm, and Trucco was assigned to yet more work coiling and stowing all the ropes.
Returning to the galley with several large turtles, Daina found Fishguts passed out drunk as expected, and got to work cleaning the turtles and preparing the stew. In his corner of the ship, Torlan decided to sneak away to look for Owlbear. Making his way down to the cargo hold, he found the big man seated, petting the wandering pigs. Spotting him, Owlbear crossed his arms over his broad chest and scowled, declaring that Torlan wasn’t to go beyond the door he guarded, and he’d knock the dwarf down again if he tried. Torlan frowned, asking if Owlbear wasn’t mad at him, and wondered if the big man had received a cut of the prize for his fight. Owlbear declared that he just loved to fight, and Torlan agreed that he too enjoyed a good brawl. At that moment, the ship’s mage Grovis appeared from the officer’s quarters and ordered Torlan back on deck, growling that he’d be facing three lashes that night for shirking his duties.
Up on deck, Trucco laid a loving hand on the main mast and whispered sweet nothings to the Storm Reaver, apologizing for neglecting her and promising that he’d take better care of her in spite of Master Scourge’s harsh treatment. The rain began to fall harder, soaking him to the bone as he worked. Belowdecks, Rus wasn’t staying dry either as he diligently pumped storm water out of the bilge.
Bloody Hour came once again. Torlan took his three lashes stoically, the grog was doled out, and the crew went down to the meal Daina had managed to prepare without Fishguts help. As she served everyone from a large cauldron, Trucco approached and hesitatingly asked if he could have a second plate, pleading and promising her more gold in exchange. As she ladled more stew into his bowl, she rejected any sort of payment and replied that everyone needed to eat. He thanked her profusely, and she thanked him in turn for believing in her.
After Torlan finished his evening performance, and Daina had seen everyone fed and returned the cauldron to the galley, she made her way around the room, waving her uncle, Trucco, and Rus over to a quiet corner. Leaning forward on the table with her hands wrapped around a large mug of grog, she spoke quietly of how Fishguts had told her that Mister Lagraa continued to hold a grudge from having defied her on their first night aboard. She couldn’t shake the feeling that her fight with Owlbear had been a setup, but Trucco mused that pitting him against the crew might be a regular occurrence. Putting aside her fears for herself, Daina leaned in closer and asked Trucco and Rus if they’d run into any extra trouble these past few days. Rus replied that he’d kept his head down, and Torlan remarked that it seemed they all had the same goal: to get off the Storm Reaver one way or another. Or perhaps, Trucco piped up, to take the ship for themselves? Rus replied that he just wanted to get back to land in one piece, and Daina noted that the ship wasn’t headed to any port she knew of. Having been up in the crow’s nest the previous day, Trucco suggested that he thought they were headed for Port Verge. That caught Daina and Torlan’s attention, as she had a friend in Port Verge who might be able to help them, and Torlan had a distant cousin there. Rus mused that there was a chance the Hand of Plenty might be in port, and after some questions from Daina and Trucco revealed that it was a pleasure yacht he’d worked security on. Torlan expressed concern that the Hand was an excellent target for pirates, and Rus shrugged and simply replied that the ship had its own protection.
Torlan reined in the conversation to their immediate situation, and wondered if the others had any plans regarding their next moves aboard the Storm Reaver. He believed that the officers quarters held the key to changing their fortunes, and he began to play a song of portent on his harp to determine what may lie beyond the door Owlbear diligently guarded. As his fingers danced over the strings, the music came back unnaturally discordant, warning him away from that plan. Daina asked Trucco how long he thought it would be before they reached land, but the normally overconfident rogue conceded that he’d need another day in the crow’s nest to get a better sense of it. Wondering what else they could do, Trucco proposed that they try to turn the Storm Reaver’s officers against each other — sow seeds of discord and distrust, and let them eat their own. Torlan and Daina agreed that Trucco had an excellent idea.
Noting that Rus had been very quiet throughout this whole conversation, Daina asked him what he thought of this plan. He replied that he wasn’t much good at scheming, to which she replied that she wasn’t either, but Torlan and Trucco were, and she’d defer to them on these matters. Rus promised that he’d be along for the ride and support them in whatever they planned, and Daina agreed that she’d be right there with him. Rus conceded Sandara Quinn’s repeated insistence that they needed friends more than anything else, while Torlan proposed that the safest thing to do would be to continue trying to earn the crew’s favour, and suggested that they had earned some more respect thanks to Daina’s defeat of Owlbear. Looking slightly ashamed, Daina questioned whether there was anything respectable about beating up a man who had been scared and trying to run, but agreed that the rougher sailors on board might consider it a worthy feat. She sighed and noted that she had, however, made a few friends on board, and owed Sandara some extra friendship as well. Torlan mused that they wanted Owlbear on their side as a strong fighter, but wondered how to convince him that they had his best interests in mind — perhaps if they brought him some food? Trucco grinned. He was two steps ahead of them already. That was why he’d asked Daina for a second plate of stew.
Making his way down to the cargo hold with a plate in hand, Trucco sat himself down on a crate across from Owlbear and remarked that the big man was clearly special — and Trucco was pretty special himself! Men like them were often made fun of, and Trucco began to lament that neither of them were free, and that they were both misunderstood. Pouring his heart out about growing up on the streets of Metrol and falling in with pirates, Trucco began to explain how money was a metaphor to fill the emptiness inside him, and maybe that was because he didn’t have a purpose, and needed to fill it. After speaking for some time, he commented that Owlbear was a great listener, and that he’d really needed to get that off his chest.
As the rain continued to beat down, the crew began stringing up their hammocks for the night, and prepared to face another uncertain day in the clutches of the Cloud Reavers…but, perhaps, with some renewed hope for their future.
Behind the Scenes
- Question of the week: who is one of the valuable contacts that you have? How did you develop that relationship?
- What started out as a fairly standard encounter took a series of unexpected turns. First, Michael petitioned for Owlbear to be upgraded to Wild Card status in order to be able to make use of an adventure card that could only be played on an enemy Wild Card. He temporarily traded the ability to soak wounds for three more adventure cards from which he could choose a new one, so when Owlbear got six raises on his first punch…well…good thing it was not a lethal fight! None of us, myself included, had expected Daina to get involved, but the blow to Torlan’s honour combined with Mister Lagraa’s challenge required it in my opinion. With Torlan down for the count and Rus choosing to remain neutral, Daina and Owlbear ran each other out of bennies in short order while Trucco’s hype from the sidelines translated to support rolls – and Ernesto played the Inspiration adventure card, which gave both Trucco and Daina a +2 to all trait rolls for the remainder of the encounter, while Daina’s use of Martial Flexibility to take the Brawler edge increased her toughness by 1 and added a d4 to her unarmed attacks, giving her a fighting change against Owlbear to begin with. After all the bennies were off the table, and both Owlbear and Daina had taken two wounds, it became very difficult for either of them to succeed at hitting each other and the fight turned into a slog. Phillip then elected to resolve the encounter as a Quick Combat to keep the game moving, shift the spotlight, and get the rest of the party back into the action: one roll, winner takes all.
- Trucco bet half his money on Torlan, which played into the Poverty hindrance that requires him to halve his funds every in-game week. However, he doubled his money betting on Daina, so it will be interesting to see when and how he and that gold are parted!
- There’s not a whole lot extra for Behind The Scenes this week, as that encounter and its follow-up took up the bulk of the session. I am very excited about Trucco’s proposal to turn the officers against each other (Yojimbo, anyone?), and to see how we are able to play that out in the coming weeks.